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Toyota’s hybrids to sport bolder emblems

November 22, 2010
Toyota is planning more prominent emblems on its gas-electric hybrid SUVs in a new belief that owners want others to know of their environmental consciousness. 


Hybrids save gas and reduce air emissions compared with conventional gasoline-powered cars and trucks. Toyota’s first hybrid was Prius, a distinctive car that has no conventional-powered twin. Now Toyota sells hybrid versions of Toyota Highlander and Lexus RX330 SUVs, both of which are available as gas-powered models. The Lexus is called the 400h.


Research when the vehicles were being developed showed that potential customers didn’t want to stick out just because they were driving a hybrid, Lexus spokesman Bill Ussery said. So the hybrid version of the Lexus doesn’t look different except that the emblem reads RX400h—"h" for hybrid. The hybrid Highlander’s rear badge includes a tiny plate that reads "Hybrid Synergy Drive." 

But since the two made their debut last spring, the company has received feedback from customers that they want more visibility, said Ussery. "We are now evaluating alternatives to the current rear tailgate badging," including front and sides, he said.


One marketing expert said special cars need special emblems. "It creates word-of-mouth, creates awareness," said Gordon Wangers, chief executive of the automotive marketing firm, AMCI. 

Highlander hybrid owner Michael Lee says more prominent labeling might spread the popularity of hybrids. "It would be better . . . so that more people would ask," said Lee, 54, a Clovis, N.M., railroad engineer.


Other automakers currently selling hybrids aren’t considering changes. 

Both the Honda Civic and Accord hybrids are clearly marked, and that won’t change even when the redesigned Civic is unveiled later this year. Honda Insight is unique, like Prius.


Ford Escape and the new Mercury Mariner hybrid SUVs are marked as hybrids on the back and sides. "People didn’t want a vehicle that looks like a freak show on wheels," said spokesman Dan Bedore.